“Suddenly he started screaming, Caroline, I swear to God I’ve tried, I swear to God I’ve tried…”– Caroline, Arlo Parks
Oh man, I have been waiting to talk about this New Music Crush. Arlo Parks is the musical poet I’ve been looking for and honestly aspire to be. Please consider this my essay to Spotify as to why I added Caroline by Arlo Parks twice to multiple playlists. It might’ve been an accident at first but I didn’t change it for a reason!
Finding Arlo Parks, however, was no accident.
Last summer, I went on a chaotic romp through the world of indie pop. On top of that, I was looking for music for my this is america playlist. Her music struck a very sophisticated chord with me and as I dove in, I fell in love with her gorgeous, delicate voice paired with laidback sounds and her poetic lyrics.
Anaïs Oluwatoyin Estelle Marinho, stage name Arlo Parks, was born in West London in 2000. She started uploading demos to BBC Music Introducing in 2018 and caught the attention of a DJ who connected her with a manager. She has said in interviews that she is inspired by Sylvia Plath and Joni Mitchell, who I also both love. So it totally makes sense why Arlo’s art appeals to me so intimately. That reminds me, I gotta do a whole post on Joni for sure.
Leave me to my own devices. It’s better when your coca-cola eyes are out of my face…– Cola, Arlo Parks
“Cola” was the first song that really got me. The punchy, but laidback bass hooks you and Arlo’s breathy vocals really make this song worth several listens. Seriously, the song will finish and you’re left feeling like those vibes are unmatched so it only makes sense to repeat it.
When I first listened to her, she hadn’t released her album yet but was releasing singles leading up to it. By the time she released her album Collapsed in Sunbeams earlier this year, it quickly became my go-to album to listen to while driving through wintry, overcast mid-worst-of-the-pandemic Los Angeles.
January this year was riddled with anxiety for me, but I was trying to focus on healing from my old job and the scars it left. As I detailed in my Dancing Through Pain playlist, Los Angeles was in the worst shape I’d ever seen it in and I didn’t want to leave my house. But I still did for one reason. I was volunteering at my church’s food distribution center every Saturday and I didn’t feel like it was right for me to stop. When I would drive home after serving, Arlo Parks’s voice was one of the only things that helped me feel a sense of encouraged peace.
One song that particularly hit me hard was “Black Dog”.
“I would do anything to get you out your room. It’s so cruel what your mind can do for no reason…”– Black Dog, Arlo Parks
Arlo Parks in this song is the kind voice we all need to have in our minds. This song is exactly the internal conversation I’ve had with myself while dealing with depression during the pandemic. I recently realized that the darkest place my mind has ever been was in the last two/three years, hitting a new low in 2020. I thought I had hit rock bottom in high school but I didn’t realize that I had gone through a darker darkness more recently. I’m still recovering from that by wrestling with self-doubt and learning to quiet the voices in my head with encouraging songs like this.
Also, the music video 100% made me cry.
Arlo Parks is a bonafide storyteller and I feel like one of the best examples of her genius songwriting is the aforementioned Caroline.
“Caroline” is a nearly perfect song to me. The melody gets stuck in your head, the guitar is hypnotizing, the beat is focused and steady, the storytelling is vivid and you feel the universal pain in the chorus. It’s another song you have to leave on repeat or add an extra time to your playlist.
Now, if there was a song that marries the vivid storytelling from “Caroline” and the encouragement from “Black Dog”, it would be “Green Eyes”.
“Some of these folks wanna make you cry, but you gotta trust how you feel inside. And shine, and shine…”– Green Eyes, Arlo Parks
This song is the sweet summer song I’ve been looking for. It’s the embodiment of when you have a picnic in the park with your friends and you talk about all the deep things you can only talk about with them. It’s sunny and comforting but also inviting, honest, and open.
“Green Eyes” provides such a deep peace to me because it feels intimately personal. Like how did she know the last two semi-relationship things I went through both felt good for two months and then fizzled. And how did she know the advice I needed to hear most right now is in that chorus. It’s been a while since I got some comfort from some green eyes.
I’m fascinated by Arlo’s music because every listen brings a new layer of understanding, like when you read poetry. You can interpret it a bunch of different ways and somehow you feel different every time. Speaking of poetry, Arlo has some spoken word songs that are just beautiful. I’ve included them in the playlist because I think more poets should do something like that…or at least someone needs to point me in the direction of folks who are doing this too.
Smooth yet pulsing, delicate yet raw, Arlo Parks GOES there sonically and lyrically. It could be a chilly, overcast day or the hottest day of the summer and Arlo Parks’s music would still feel right. She conveys this peacefulness even amid frustration, depression, and longing.
Anyway, I could go on as I do with any New Music Crush, but I think you need to see fully what I’m talking about. Arlo Parks is such an exciting artist to me. She was supposed to open for Hayley Williams’s Petals for Armor tour, which would have been one cathartic night for me. But now I’m fully in love with her music and artistry and ready to experience her absolute talent live.